Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Clone Wars Campaign: Recap # 3

Episode 2.1, The Shadow Rises, Session 3

The Galactic Civil War continues. Two months after the battle at Geonosis, the Republic and the Separatists skirmish on a hundred planets. Each tries to consolidate gains but the availability of hyperspace travel makes it difficult to establish a secure front line.

A fierce battle rages on the Outer Rim planet of Kamino, where the Republic has its secret cloning facilities. The defenders knew of the impending Separatist attack but were unprepared for its intensity and the facilities have been breached. On the other side of the galaxy, Jedi Master Mace Windu has been dispatched to an obscure planet to mediate a schism within the Jedi Order.

And on the desert moon Mongui, the Republic's soldiers are beginning to relax as the Separatists appear to be withdrawing their seige. Now only a small Separatist camp remains outside the city's perimeters. Far above, in orbit, an impressive collection of Republic warships defends the sector.

Tensions are rising, however, in the Mongui Royal Palace. The Steward has disappeared, the Commander of the Guard has been eyeing everyone suspiciously, and the Regent himself has been the subject of a highly visible assassination attempt. Moments ago, the body of the Steward was discovered in Commander Alann Drazi's quarters.

And right in the middle of the conflict are three off-worlders sent by the Republic on a mysterious mission . . .

[62 AG]

While transferring Alaan through the palace, Marpa, Ycram, and Arresta are attacked by a rebel group led by Corinne. Marpa and Ycram fall prey to a stun grenade, leaving Arresta to try to track down the rebels. However, Corinne and Alaan escape. Later that morning, Marpa searches Alaan's quarters and finds a hidden datapad listing "400 units" as having been delivered. The group then discovers that Tarn has been kidnapped, and travel to the Spacer's Cluster looking for information. Marpa learns that Twitch duels at an establishment called The Vector and that he pilots a ship called the Sun Runner. Arresta makes a reservation for the surprisingly fancy Vector, and they return to the palace. Marpa and Ycram interrogate a communication's technician and suspect she has helped the rebels by turning off the monitoring systems. Word comes that the Regent is trapped in an elevator and being attacked by Corinne and Alaan. After a furious gun battle, Marpa captures Alaan and Corinne. Arresta takes a speeder to the top of the palace and rappels down the elevator shaft to save her father seconds before he would bleed to death. The group then rushes to bacta tanks to heal their wounds.

[63 AG]

Arresta finds "John Doe" Tarn at the clinic. Tarn interrogates Alaan and is told to go the southeast corner of the palace. There, the group finds a secret passage. Behind DNA-locked doors, crates of B-1 battle droids have been secretly stockpiled, with B-2 battle droids set up as guards. After a series of battles, the droids are all destroyed. After leaving the tunnels, the group runs into Lt. Jaarza (Alaan's replacement), who says that he never received their call for help and informs the group that Alaan was "killed while attempting to escape". The party is taken to a clinic to heal.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Working for the Devil

I recently finished Working for the Devil by the impossible-not-to-be-a-pseudonym Lilith Saintcrow. Apparently this is the first in a series of novels about a half-demon "Necromance" bounty hunter chick with a sword in a future where supernatural abilities and denizens are commonplace. It's one of those few books where, even after finishing it, I'm not sure whether I liked it or not. The protagonist is bisexual which is something I would love to see more of in genre fiction, and some of the scenes are well-written. On the other hand, it lacks the wit or originality that makes me really want to keep turning the pages. I think it's one of those books that I would read the sequel if someone gave it to me or I saw it in a bargain bin, but I wouldn't actively go out and buy.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My Compulsions

1. I have a book queue. If I buy or am given a book, it goes at the end of the queue and I read books in the queue starting from left to right. In other words, sooner or later I get to every book in the queue, but it could be a couple of years from the time I receive a book to the time I read the book. The thesis is that the queue ensures I don't have a bunch of unread books sitting around for years cluttering up my shelves.

2. I finish every book, movie, computer game, and t.v. show season that I begin. Even if I hate it. In theory, this gives me the chance to not miss out on things that get a lot better as they go on (the t.v. show Tru Calling, for example, got really interesting near the end of Season 1).

3. Every weeknight I read three comic books, 10 pages from a novel in French, and 40 pages from a book in the queue. This ensures I make slow but steady progress in my reading material.

I confess that these things make me seem weird--but I haven't even talked about my toenail collection yet (just kidding!).

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Browns

The city of Cleveland is derided enough; why must the gods punish it more by making the Browns begin the season at 0 and 3? Especially after having won ten games last season, this was supposed to be The Year. Yes, the year in which the Browns could make it to the Super Bowl for the first time ever (the team did want some championships back before the merged NFL came into being). As others have mentioned, the powers-that-be have even committed to showing three Browns games on Monday Night Football, a decision they are doubtless regretting at this very moment.

Then again, perhaps this is simply the prelude to a wondrous 13-3 season.

Yep, that must be it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Clone Wars Campaign: Recap # 2

Continuing the series of unearthed re-caps of the on-going Star Wars role-playing game. The first several of these early re-caps are quite short, as they were written long after the original sessions. In this session, the PCs encounter the corsair Jocasta and her crew, who would prove to be major adversaries throughout the campaign.

Episode 2.1 "The Shadow Rises" Session # 2

Commander Alaan arrives with several palace guards and Clone troopers. Arresta and Corinne are taken to a private clinic and the others are taken to the Republic garrison for healing. After healing, the group learns that the Royal Steward is missing. Tarn, Ycram, and Marpa come up with a plan involving a faked kidnapping at the Spacer's Cluster cantina to flush out the traitor, but it doesn't work. Marpa kills a spice dealer for insulting his honor, and Tarn encounters a band of rogues led by Jocasta (other members including a Rodian named Twitch and a pair of Gammoreans named the Blood Brothers). Jocasta reveals that she sold Corinne's lover into slavery with the Hutts, but claims that she's been hired by Commander Alaan to discover who the traitor is. After a police raid of the Spacer's Cluster, Jocasta's group is captured but Tarn intercedes and they are released. Back at the palace later that night, the Regent turns over evidence implicating Commander Alaan as the traitor and sends the group to arrest him. They take Alaan into custody after finding the Royal Steward's body hidden in a secret compartment. Tarn receives a private call from Mace Windu, who reveals that the Republic fleet around Mongui is departing within hours for the Defense of Kamino. Mace also says that he has been unable to uncover who in the G.A.R. assigned Tarn to this mission, one he was clearly not qualified for. After finishing the conversation, Tarn is ambushed by persons unknown and rendered unconscious.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Clone Wars Campaign: Recap # 1

Over a year ago I started directing a Star Wars role-playing campaign set during the early months of the Clone Wars (i.e., in between Episode II and Episode III). The game is still going strong, so I've decided to occasionally post a recap of each session. At the very beginning, the adventuring group consisted of Arresta D'avilos (Princess of Mongui), Tarn Tamarand (young Jedi apprentice), Ycram Notwal (50ish man with a mysterious past), and Marpa Zalon (Duros technical expert). Each recap will start with the session's "Opening Crawl" and will have information only some of the players know redacted. Dates are signified in brackets with the designation "AG" which stands for the number of days After the battle of Geonosis.

Episode 2.1 "The Shadow Rises" Session 1

It is a time of Galactic Civil War. Spurred on by corruption in the Republic Senate, an overreaching bureaucracy, or simple greed, Separatists of every persuasion have convinced hundreds of worlds to secede from the Republic. Led by the respected philosopher and former Jedi Count Dooku, Separatist supporters like the Trade Federation and the Commerce Guild have built millions of battle droids to fight the Republic's Clone Troopers. Now, on the edges of Both and Hutt space, a key planet has fallen under attack by the Separatists. If Mongui falls, the Separatists will have a staging area of attacks on the Core worlds. As the battle on Mongui wages, the Republic has sent a curious delegation . . .

Tarn Tamarand seeks out Master Horellius Creen at the Jedi Temple. Creen tells Tarn that the boy can become his Padawan if he is able to return from a mission with the answer to a question. Creen forwards Tarn's name to the available mission queue, and Tarn eventually receives an order to proceed to Mongui to retrieve the Regent or one of his daughters (for unspecified reasons). Marpa Zokol is hired as a bodyguard for Tarn's expedition. Ycram Notwal is hired as an interpreter. The three board the ship Delia's Ultimatum piloted by a Bothan named Maytoc Kolene.

[60 AG]

The hyperspace coordinates they are given lead them to a trap near Mongui, as the ship arrives right in the middle of a Republic/Separatist space battle. The ship is heavily damaged by two droid starfighters, but the attackers turn back as Delia's Ultimatum limps into the atmosphere. Upon landing at the palace, the ship is greeted by the Regent (Alphon D'avilos), his daughter (Princess Arresta D'avilos), the Guards Commander (Alaan Draazi), and the Royal Steward (Jacque Duran). However, an airspeeder full of B-1 battle droids attacks. Tarn leaps aboard and quickly destroys the droids. The trio learn that there is a traitor somewhere within the palace, who has been providing information to the Separatists, including the security codes to the energy shield surrounding the city.

[61 AG]

Arresta takes the team in her personal landspeeder out to the scavenger yards to investigate her sister, Corinne D'avilos, who was disowned by her father for becoming involved with a drifter named Miklos. While in Corinne's trailer, a Separatist patrol attacks. The Separatists flee after taking heavy casualties, leaving one prisoner behind. Corinne is knocked unconscious during the fight.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

One Thing or Your Mother

I've now written something in the range of 50 reviews of various Buffy the Vampire Slayer books (all on my website at www.geocities.com/jhaeman). My latest review was made easy with the extremely long summary published on the back of the book.

One Thing or Your Mother

Kirsten Beyer (2008)

RATING: 4/5 Stakes

SETTING: Season 2

T.V. CHARACTER APPEARANCES: Buffy, Angelus, Drusilla, Spike, Willow, Principal Snyder, Giles, Joyce, Xander, Cordelia, Larry, Johnathan, Oz, Detective Stein, Detective Winslow, The Mayor, Allan

MAJOR ORIGINAL CHARACTERS: Josh Grodin (demon summoner), Paulina Snyder (Principal's mom), Todd Harter (tutor), Callie (child vamp)

BACK-OF-THE-BOOK SUMMARY: "It's tough being a teenage Slayer. On the verge of failing her junior year--thanks to annoying Principal Snyder, who seems to be acting even stranger than usual lately--Buffy agrees to meet with a tutor. Not helping her studies is the fact that lately she's been exhausted, waking up each morning feeling more tired than she did the night before. To make matters worse, she's tasked with investigating the disappearance of a child . . . a little girl who happens to have gone missing mere hours before a child vampire surfaced in Sunnydale, accompanied by a wheelchair-bound male who fits Spike's description perfectly. Fighting off exhaustion and uneasy at the prospect of staking a child vamp, Buffy learns that Principal Snyder is the target of a sleep-deprivation spell that has taken over Sunnydale. Putting aside her fear that her tutor is out to get her, and hoping that the sleeping spell is affecting both humans and demons, Buffy investigates Snyder's off behavior. She follows him to his childhood home to discover that he has arranged to have his abusive mother banished to the demon dimension. Meanwhile, Drusilla, who has been playing mother figure to the child vampire, is learning how difficult it is to be a parent. As sleep takes hold of the citizens of Sunnydale, Buffy beings to realize that unless she breaks the spell soon, the nightmare is just beginning."


Whew! The summary on the back of the book is almost as long as the book itself! With such a thorough description of the plot already provided, I can move right into some commentary. One Thing or Your Mother is set in Buffy Season Two and the author has paid close attention to continuity and included several minor characters from the show, like Larry, Allan, and police detectives Winslow & Stein. The revelation that Principal Snyder had to make a deal with The Mayor to have the abusive Mrs. Snyder sent to a demon dimension is done quite well and adds some strange sympathy to the figure of Principal Snyder. The subplot involving Drusilla deciding to be "mother" to a vampire child is also well-written and includes excellent portrayals of Drusilla's fickleness, Angelus' volatility, and Spike's ability to show tenderness as surprising times. Overall, the book has a creepy, dark feel that is missing from too many Buffy novels. It's one worth picking up.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My Teaching Year (Part IV)

The penultimate post in this exciting series!

One thing that took me a while to get used to while being a professor was the feeling of being under constant observation--and I don't just mean at the law school. I seemed to constantly run into my students at restaurants, on the train, walking down the street, etc. (even though the Detroit-Windsor metropolitan area is pretty sizable). Because Detroit Mercy faculty (unlike most laws schools I've been in) have an unspoken shirt-and-tie dress code, I always felt a bit weird encountering my students outside of the school while I was out for a jog or wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Similarly, it made me far more conscious of all the stuff about comic books or Buffy on my website and those old newspaper columns I wrote for the student newspaper. There's a 99.99% chance nobody gave a damn, but it was always in the back of my mind--"what will people think?"

One of the highlights for me at Detroit Mercy was when the moot court team I coached won the Niagara International law competition, the first time a team from UDM had ever won first place in that tournament. Coaching the team was an unusual experience because I had no idea how much control I should try to exert over the team. The fact that it was my first experience with a formal competition and that I lived in Windsor (and so couldn't attend some late-evening practices) led me to choose a mostly hands-off approach (trusting the team to come up with the substance of their arguments, with my role as offering feedback and critiques every few practices), which then got me in trouble with another faculty member (who I had had run-ins with before) who stepped in to provide much more direction. Still, I was the one who went to the competition with the team and advised them from round-to-round. In the end, I have no idea how much of a contribution I made compared to other faculty members, but I am certain that any responsibility for the victory ultimately lies with the students.

The last thing I want to mention in this post is the astounding difference in workload I found between teaching legal writing and constitutional law. Each course required preparation before class, but the constant reading of drafts and papers for the legal writing course consumed far, far more time than grading a single paper and exam for the constitutional law course. It certainly made me sympathetic for the Legal Writing Insititute and other associations of legal writing profs around the country whose members do a lot more work for a lot less money. (Not surprisingly, it also helped cement my decision to be a "doctrinal" professor instead of a legal writing prof).

Friday, September 5, 2008

Goddamn Godstorm

As an addendum to my last post, I can now report that I have lost 6 out of 7 games of Risk: Godstorm against my sig-other, including five in a row. However, I have prepared an excuse for each defeat:

1. The sun was in my eyes.

2. The dog ate my "Sink Atlantis" card.

3. I let her win because otherwise she cuts me.

4. Godstorm? I thought we were playing Chinese Checkers!

5. Parallel Universe Jeremy has also won 6 out of the 7 games. So there!

6. This is all part of my long-term plan to lull her into a false sense of invincibility. Her uppance will come!

Stay tuned for more in this epic saga.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


This past week, my sig-other and I have played several rousing games of Risk: Godstorm, a variation of the classic Risk that has an ancient mythology theme. Each player has several gods drawn from a different ancient patheon that they can call upon to aid their armies in battle, and there's also the chance to get miracle cards which can do some cool things, such as sinking the entire continent of Atlantis, raining down plagues on opposing armies, etc.. The downside is that my sig-other keeps amassing massive armies and sweeping me off the board, so I've done what any good lawyer tries to do when losing: change the rules! With my sig-other's kind approval, we've instituted some new house rules to make the game more strategic and less about whoever can amass the largest single army first. All in all, it's a really cool game. Now I can't wait for my soon-to-be-delivered Risk: Star Wars.